Monday, May 25, 2009

"In the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the best teacher..."--The Dalai Lama

Our Easter service this year was picture perfect...almost. Not quite masochistic enough to subject ourselves to brunch, we do open an hour early for dinner service and generally receive throngs of pink pants, scores of baby-blue sport coats, and wagons full of screaming children just as the doors are unlocked.

This year was no different, and within fifteen minutes of opening a full third of our evening's reservations had been seated. Easter is easy--a couple of classic holiday specials are added to our regular menu, and while the check averages are unusually low due to the hordes of kids and once-a-year diners--guests generally keep the glory of the day in mind--its hard to be a pompous ass while out with your family to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The cherry on top of this relatively painless Sundae [pun mildly intended] is that because we open early and see mostly very early business, we close early as well--a full 90 minutes early--allowing me the rare thrill of NOT being "the last one home".

I could taste the getaway, was actually planning out a productive early evening campaign of drinking and relaxing, when it happened...

At 8:25pm a fat, slovenly, haphazardly dressed man strode through the door like the Saracens through the Christopher Gate--dimwitted, oafish son in tow.

"Your still serving, right--of course you are, its barely dark out...come on Nimrod [throughout the meal he referred to his giant, intensely stupid 20-ish son by name and in a fashion as if he were not even there--and while that constantly repeated name was not actually "Nimrod", it was pretty similar in timbre and foolishness], I'm going to pick my own table because I'm very particular and everything has to be just so and a third will be joining us eventually but we'll start with drinks and wait for him to arrive have someone follow us with menus...", and away he went.

The restaurant was nearly empty at this point, and the last dinners had been sent out of the kitchen over a half hour before--we were literally five minutes from being home free before this clearly troublesome man entered the building. I began to consider my options--the most attractive of which was to turn the dial on my watch ahead to 8:30pm, and then fetch the rude, fat man from my dining room and send him away to spread his personal brand of terror elsewhere. But then conscience got in the way.

Easter means alot to me--the years working in restaurants have not deadened the holiday's magic for me as they have for many other holidays [and my birthday]. Raised as a Roman Catholic and forever delighted with the comfort and elegance of the Rite of Mass, my religious philosophy is much more Deist than based in classic Catholic theology. The details of Easter as they relate to resurrection do not hold my attention nearly as much as the miracle of the story, the moral it delivers, and the myriad lessons that can be learned from the Easter Scripture. After all, nothing puts a bad day in perspective faster than the Stations of the Cross.

It was with these monumental events in mind that I considered how to approach my own personal King Herod. The answer presented itself in the form of the party's third guest, a delightful, frail old gentleman who entered the restaurant apologizing for his tardiness and telling me how much he had been looking forward to finally dining with us and how this visit from his departed wife's brother seemed the perfect occasion.

This nice old man enjoyed his meal and has since been back twice, thankfully with other companions. Before leaving that Easter evening, he also apologized for his brother-in-law with a simple, honestly-meant, "He's a lawyer, I hope you can forgive him".

It has taken me a while to describe this event because the verbatim exchanges between this most evil of men and my servers and between my servers and myself would go on nearly forever [even though the visit itself listed less than 90 minutes--the son apparently can't contain his truly bizarre behavior more than about an hour and twenty], and I have been trying to figure out the best way to indicate the travesty of the visit without boring anyone to tears.

In the end, a synopsis seemed most direct and effective:

1. Demanded a new waiter within five minutes of sitting down because the original server didn't "try to sell him" on tap water. To be more specific, the server approached the table and poured ice water as per policy. The guest then ordered a bottle of sparkling water, and when the waiter asked if he should remove the ice water or leave it, the guy asked how the ice water was. The server responded that our water was filtered and that he thought it was very good and often drank it himself. The guest tried the water, and then told the server that he could go ahead and bring the sparkling water anyway[dismissively, in the description given by the waiter, which I have no reason to doubt]. When the waiter returned in about one minute from retrieving the bottle of water, he was ordered away from the table because even though he had been specifically directed to get the bottle of water, he had not stayed to take the appetizer order that the guest had secretly wanted to place.

This guy replaced his waiter for not pushing bottled water as most restaurants do, pouring ice water, honestly giving positive responses to questions regarding he ice water, and then delivering the bottled water that the guest continued to request even after receiving the positive review of the tap water. Although, in the guest's defense, the waiter did fail to telepathically realize that the guest, whose party was incomplete, wanted to order appetizers at the same time as the drinks even though he had not yet opened the menu. So there is that, I guess...

2. Became very upset that he could not specifically pick his replacement from among the terrified cabal of servers clustered around me begging not to be given the table

3. Was then consecutively upset by first, how happy his "rejected" server seemed at losing the honor of waiting on him, and secondly by the replacement server's refusal to agree that what the original person had done was reprehensible.

4. Returned his caesar salad because he did not like, "a creamy caesar dressing--the only real caesar salad dressing is the vinaigrette caesar salad dressing".

5. Was put out that we did not have some sort of hand-held video game available for his gigantic son to use.

6. Ordered without consultation a bottle of wine, tasted and approved it, refused to have any poured beyond the initial taste, refused to admit any dissatisfaction with it or allow us to replace it, and at the end of the meal insisted on only paying for 7% [yes, seven percent was the quoted amount] of the bottle because it was "repugnant" [I declined to charge for any of the wine, which was quite nice, and drank the entire bottle myself in record time once he was out of sight].

7. Ordered his steak black and blue but demanded that only one side of the steak be charred. Was unhappy with the steak because it didn't "taste charred enough" and because it wasn't medium rare--which is not surprising given the fact that the steak was ordered black and blue. When the server suggested cooking the steak a bit more and charring the other side to alleviate his concerns the guest at first refused, then relented after entreating the server "not to let any cooks or that terrible first waiter spit on my steak". When his charred medium rare steak was returned to the table he complemented us on providing a "perfect black and blue" on the second try and was kind enough to let us know that there might actually be hope for us to be successful one day.

8. Left a 4% tip

Now, I have mentioned on more than one occasion that I have never, in my entire career, witnessed true sinister adulteration of someones food. Never seen anyone make a phlegm burger, or a butt steak, or a visine daiquiri [not even back in the day when such drink would have really acted as a violent laxative], or a "broom sandwich" [where the bread is slid along the dirty kitchen floor for a ways before the mayo is added and the sandwich finished],or any of the other legendary evil payback dishes. I have seen a server heat a cappuccino to such a degree after having it sent back three times for "being cold" that the woman left the first seven layers of her lips on the edge of the mug when she attempted to drink from it, and I have seen a server purposely dump a full bottle of wine all over the biggest prick in the world all the while making it look like a simple comedy of errors, but I have never seen an attack on food. With that said, I will bet you that this particular guest has consumed more restaurant staff biological matter in his life than a band of cannibals attacking a Cheesecake Factory. This guy absolutely begs to be poisoned.

Google result on the guy I call my "Easter penance": a personal injury lawyer from Saskatchewan.


Blogger redgirl said...

Amazing. Amazingly he the sort of person that you can have "the right to refuse service" for?

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Restaurant Gal said...

I never cease to be amazed that your same "fine" dining guests always seem find their way to Florida and into my houses. Thanks for sharing their love!

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can I come work for you?

10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let it be known that not all people from saskatchewan are assholes! Maybe just the lawyers?

11:54 AM  

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